The Public's Pulse

Pollsters have been busy lately. Below are some highlights from their new polls.

Recession Results: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's comment that the recession is "very likely over" notwithstanding, Americans aren't buying it. In the latest CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll, conducted in late August, a whopping 87% said the economy is still in recession.

Liar, Liar: Tempers appeared to have cooled a bit since Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You lie" to President Obama during his speech to a joint session of Congress on health care. Fox News and Opinion Dynamics pollsters turned down the volume and asked people whether they believed it was possible, as the president said, that his health care plan would not add a dime to deficit. Twenty-eight percent said this was possible; 67% said it was not. In another question in the poll, people were asked if, under the president's plan, they would have to make changes in their health care coverage that they didn't want to make. Thirty-six percent said they wouldn't have to alter current plans, while 60% said they would probably have to make some changes.

Terror Threats?: Federal authorities are widening their probe into Najibullah Zazi's possible involvement in a terrorist plot. In a poll taken before the eighth anniversary of 9/11 by CBS News, 62% said a terrorist attack in the next few months in the U.S. was not very or not at all likely. In another question, 50% said the U.S. was adequately prepared to deal with an attack; 44% said we weren't.

The president said, that his health care plan would not add a dime to deficit. Twenty-eight percent said this was possible; 67% said it was not.

Obama Overexposed?: Thirty-seven percent told Pew Research Center interviewers this month that they have been hearing too much about Obama, 12% too little and 47% the right amount. The responses have changed little from identical questions Pew asked in March and July.

Afghanistan Action: Last weekend, in several television interviews, President Obama appeared to temper his campaign commitment for additional troops in Afghanistan. One reason may be the trouble he's having with his Democratic base on the issue. In a mid-September Pew Research Center survey that asked about keeping U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan until the situation has stabilized, 50% were in favor, while 43% wanted troops removed as soon as possible. Fifty-six percent of Democrats, compared to 25% of Republicans, want the troops out as soon as possible. In other polls, self-identified Democrats have been more opposed than Republicans to both the war and to sending more troops.

Health Care Concerns: Both the ABC News/Washington Post and NBC/Wall Street Journal polls suggest the president hasn't gained (or lost) ground on health care since his address to Congress. The ABC/Post poll found that 46% supported, but 48% opposed, the proposed changes being developed. In the September NBC/WSJ poll, 39% said the president's plan was a good idea, and 41% a bad idea, little changed from the responses in August. Stay tuned.

Iran's Intentions: Pew recently asked people about threats to the United States. Eighty-two percent said Iran developing nuclear weapons would be a major threat, 12% a minor one and 2% not a threat. Almost as many, 76% said the Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan would be a major threat, 17% a minor one and 3% not a threat.

Congressional Concerns: In several recent polls, opinion of Congress has reached new lows.

The Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll showed that only 6% of those surveyed believed that Congress paid a great deal of attention to what regular Americans think when it decides what to do. 30% said it paid some attention, 39% not much and 23% none at all.

Flu Season: 53% of those surveyed by Fox News and Opinion Dynamics said they plan to get a flu shot against the H1N1 virus if one becomes available, while 39% said they would not. Two-thirds in the new poll reported washing their hands more. Sixty-eight percent indicated that they felt the federal government was prepared to deal with a potential outbreak; 27% said it was not.

Glen Beck: Is media superstar Glen Beck a household name? Apparently not. In the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 42% didn't recognize the name. Of the rest, 24% had a positive opinion of him and 20% a negative one.

Karlyn Bowman is a senior fellow at AEI.

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About the Author


  • Karlyn Bowman compiles and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, NAFTA and free trade, the war in Iraq, and women's attitudes. In addition, Ms. Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics because of key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the United States and writes a weekly column for
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